Journal of Air Law and Commerce


The Journal of Air Law and Commerce, a quarterly publication of the School of Law, is the oldest scholarly periodical in the English language devoted primarily to the legal and economic problems affecting aviation and space.

Since its foundation at Northwestern University in 1930 and move to SMU in 1961, the Journal of Air Law & Commerce continues to publish articles addressing domestic and international problems of the airline industry, private aviation, space, and general legal topics with a significant impact on aviation. Articles are written by distinguished lawyers, economists, government officials, and scholars. The Journal also publishes editorial comments written by students. Readership is worldwide with more than 2,300 subscribers in 54 countries.

The Journal sponsors SMU’s annual Air Law Symposium on selected problems in aviation law. More than 500 aviation lawyers and industry representatives attend the Symposium annually.


Recent Articles in Volume 88, Issue 1 (2023)

The Future of the Law on the Moon

By Andrew Y. Lee – Outer space is rapidly becoming the domain for industrial-scale private-sector innovation and entrepreneurship. By developing and maturing the unprecedented technology for vertical landing and partial reuse orbital-class rockets, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) has reduced the cost of access to orbital space by a staggering factor of magnitude, i.e., to one-tenth the previous rate. SpaceX is now on the cusp of launching its next-generation launch system called Starship to orbit. Starship is designed to be fully and rapidly reusable (land, refuel, and fly like airplanes) and expected to decrease the cost of access to orbital space to a level comparable to air travel— whereby private-sector industry in outer space would become economically viable. [...]

Customary International Law as a Vessel for Global Accord: The Case of Customary Rules-of- the-Road for Governing the Orbital Highways of Earth 

By Pablo Mendes de Leon & Jin Choi – Passenger protection will continue to ask for attention. The involved bodies and persons include policymakers and legislators, media, courts, compliance departments of airlines, law firms, consumer protection organizations, and airports. All parties must announce the conditions for such protection on their premises. In 2020, around 50% of all cases in the Netherlands, around 4,000 to 5,000 claims submitted to the lower courts, concerned passenger protection in aviation. In the Republic of Korea (Korea), these numbers are more limited but still significant; that is, around 2,500 claims form the aggregate number presented to Korean courts and Korea’s Consumer Protection Agency. [...

VFR Into IMC Through the Lens of Behavioral Economics

By Stephen O'Mahony, Felicity Deane & Kiernan Tranter – Decision-making can be the difference between life and death in all types of aviation, but in general aviation (GA), where most of the flying is conducted as single-pilot operations, the decision-making of one individual becomes fundamentally important. It is critical to consider, first, why pilots make bad decisions that can ultimately lead to weather-related aviation accidents or incidents; and second, whether a better understanding of weather-related decision-making can inform regulations that will improve decision-making and consequently reduce the frequency of pilot-error accidents. [...]

On Launching Environmental Law into Orbit in the Age of Satellite Constellations

By Michael B. Runnels – In September 2022, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a new rule changing the deorbiting timeframe for satellites ending their missions in low Earth orbit from a twenty-five-year recommendation to a five-year legal requirement. The adoption of this rule, which seeks to cultivate a sustainable orbital environment for satellites, followed the United States’ July 2022 National Orbital Debris Implementation Plan, which tasked federal agencies with reviewing the effectiveness of their orbital debris-related rules. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 2022 West Virginia v. EPA decision, however, federal rulemaking in the area of orbital debris may not survive judicial scrutiny in the absence of explicit congressional authorization to do so. The purpose of this Article is to provide arguments for why Earth’s orbital environment should be protected under the National Environmental Policy Act and to provide draft legislation that is responsive to both the Orbital Debris Plan and the Supreme Court’s recent EPA ruling, which will enable FCC rulemaking in the area of orbital debris.


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Journal Coordinator
Lisa Ponce

Ellie Johnson

Bryce Pilawski

Managing Editor
Grace Wooten

Air Law Symposium Editors
Samuel Rosenbloom
Olivia Cahill
Altaf Samnani
Grayson Felner




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Related links

Annual Air Law Symposium

SMU Annual Texas Survey

SMU Law Review

SMU Law Review Forum

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